I was talking to a couple of new runners who joined the local running club in Dubai that I’ve been training with for the last few years (ABRaS), and they told me they have joined the club to help them train for the upcoming Dubai Marathon, which I thought was great planning. The race is in about 21 weeks, which gives you ample time to train and to get your pacing, race day strategy, fueling etc. in place. You do not have to be an established runner to finish a full marathon (I’m not one), but you will need some dedication and planning to get ready for it. Even if you do not intend to run the full one, you can start preparing for the shorter 10k distance.

Now, here are some things to keep in mind for the race:

The good:

  • Completely flat (except for a brief incline on top of a bridge that goes over the Dubai Canal) so no continuous inclines at the 35k mark.
  • Good for fast times: The number of runners is not huge, so it’s quite straightforward to get into your rhythm early on in the race (rather than waste precious energy overtaking people or slowing down).
  • It’s popular with elite athletes: The prize money is huge, so expect to see some world class runners on the course.
  • Getting the 42.2k off that bucket list, if it is not there, it perhaps should be.
  • Training and running a marathon is not easy, but it’s a rewarding and challenging experience. It proves to you that anything is possible. It might also introduce you to new habits, like, say waking up at 4 am on weekends for your long run, discovering new terminology such as tempo runs, intervals, recovery pace etc.
  • If you’re not living in Dubai, it’d be a good excuse to come and visit and explore the city. Unfortunately though, since the race does not go through the ‘heart’ of the city, you won’t get to explore the main landmarks during the race. You’ll have to do that before and after.
  •   The full marathon starts quite early, which makes getting to the start line very straightforward. I parked within 500 meters of the start and finish line.
  • Decent pictures (if you are running the full marathon). Since the number of runners is not that significant, it makes it easier for the photographers to take multiple shots of you at various points of the race, so expect some good smug photos (like the one at the top of this blog post ;)).

The bad:

  • Well, it’s quite boring, to say the least, with the only highlights being (in order of appearance): Burj Al Arab throughout the race, Dubai Marina’s skyline, Burj Khalifa and the Downtown/Sheikh Zayed Road skyline in the distance, the Union Museum and the flag. That’s about it and that’s me being quite generous.
  • Very sporadic support. The city is literally still asleep, so if you’re used to big city European races, prepare to be disappointed.
  • The 10k race starts at 9 am, which makes it quite warm at the start. Far from ideal obviously, and I hope they change it. Also- Due to the time, if you are planning to run the full marathon, the area will be very crowded by the time you finish, and the traffic will be messy to leave Umm Suqeim (The start and finish area).
  • The 10k race is super crowded and can be chaotic and even risky. People are not organized in corrals, the roads are not big enough to accommodate the sheer number of runners and if you are training and aiming for a good time, then unless you are at the front, don’t get your hopes up. I do not want to sound as though I am dissing slower runners, however, there should be some effort by the organizers to make sure that faster runners get to start at the front, or at least to have a process to separate runners expecting to finish in under a certain time from ones who are planning to casually walk it, take selfies and have 5 people abreast blocking half the road. I’ve lost count of the times I or people I know almost got into serious injuries because of people who suddenly stopped or changed direction for no reason in the middle of the race.
  • The expo is, erm, non-existent, or at least has been like that for the last few years and the next one is unlikely to be any different. You simply pick up the bib, pose (if you want) with the race logo and route, try a small activation or two hastily put together by the sponsors, check out one or two stands with gels, running accessories etc. and off you go. For a city that loves its exhibitions, malls and boasting, it’s a bit of a letdown. This is a race with thousands of runners (if you include the 4k and 10k distances), and it does not do the city justice in my opinion.


Good luck if you’re training for it. Small personal note: I may not take part at all, but it’s a good race and worth checking out.


2 responses to “2018 Dubai Marathon: You have 21 weeks to train and smash it!”

  1. Shubham Jain Avatar

    It’s going to be my first Full Marathon and I am not expecting much from the course as you mentioned. Nice write up, Thanks for all the info.

    1. Omar Abu Omar Avatar

      I hope you will enjoy the experience! Running a marathon (and training for it) is an unforgettable one 🙂

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